James wins AP Male Athlete of Year

  • Miami Heat forward LeBron James, left, passes around Los Angeles Lakers guard Wesley Johnson during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Wednesday, Dec. 25, 2013. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    Miami Heat forward LeBron James, left, passes around Los Angeles Lakers guard Wesley Johnson during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Wednesday, Dec. 25, 2013. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

  • Miami Heat forward LeBron James, left, passes around Los Angeles Lakers guard Wesley Johnson during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Wednesday, Dec. 25, 2013. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    Miami Heat forward LeBron James, left, passes around Los Angeles Lakers guard Wesley Johnson during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Wednesday, Dec. 25, 2013. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

  • FILE - In this June 21, 2013 file photo, Miami Heat's Dwyane Wade, right, holds the Larry O'Brien NBA Championship Trophy as LeBron James holds his Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award after Game 7 of the NBA basketball championship game against the San Antonio Spurs in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

    FILE - In this June 21, 2013 file photo, Miami Heat's Dwyane Wade, right, holds the Larry O'Brien NBA Championship Trophy as LeBron James holds his Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award after Game 7 of the NBA basketball championship game against the San Antonio Spurs in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

  • Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra, right, talks with official Michael Smith, left, in the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Dec. 23, 2013, in Miami. The Heat won 121-119 in overtime. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

    Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra, right, talks with official Michael Smith, left, in the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Dec. 23, 2013, in Miami. The Heat won 121-119 in overtime. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

  • Miami Heat forward LeBron James, left, passes around Los Angeles Lakers guard Wesley Johnson during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Wednesday, Dec. 25, 2013. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
  • Miami Heat forward LeBron James, left, passes around Los Angeles Lakers guard Wesley Johnson during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Wednesday, Dec. 25, 2013. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
  • FILE - In this June 21, 2013 file photo, Miami Heat's Dwyane Wade, right, holds the Larry O'Brien NBA Championship Trophy as LeBron James holds his Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award after Game 7 of the NBA basketball championship game against the San Antonio Spurs in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
  • Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra, right, talks with official Michael Smith, left, in the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Dec. 23, 2013, in Miami. The Heat won 121-119 in overtime. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

MIAMI — The only thing that keeps LeBron James up worrying at night is basketball, which simultaneously makes perfect sense and no sense.

On one hand, he’s the game’s best player.

On the other, he’s rarely impressed with himself.

Even after a year like 2013 — when a spectacular wedding, a second NBA championship and a fourth MVP award were among the many highlights enjoyed by the Miami Heat star — he still is, as he puts it, striving for greatness. Or, technically, more greatness, since his enormous list of accomplishments just keeps growing.

James was announced Thursday as The Associated Press’ 2013 Male Athlete of the Year, becoming the third basketball player to capture the award that has been annually awarded since 1931. James received 31 of 96 votes cast in a poll of news organizations, beating Peyton Manning (20) and Jimmie Johnson (7).

Past winners include Joe Louis, Jesse Owens, Muhammad Ali, Carl Lewis, Joe Montana, Tiger Woods and Michael Phelps.

James joins Michael Jordan and Larry Bird as NBA players to win the award.

So far in 2013, with a maximum of three games left to play, James has appeared in 98. The Heat have won 78 of them.

None of those was bigger than the four Miami got in the NBA Finals against San Antonio. In Game 7, James was at his best, scoring 37 points, including the jump shot with 27.9 seconds left that essentially was the clincher.

“He always rises to the occasion when it matters the most,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.

Business-wise, James is booming. Some estimate his annual income around $60 million, less than one-third of that being made on the court. His wife has opened a juice bar in Miami, and David Beckham wants James to be part of the Major League Soccer team he plans on bringing to South Florida in the next couple years.

Countless people want to align with James. Few make him listen. Beckham did.

“You want to be a part of it, but it has to feel real to you,” James said. “You don’t want to do something that doesn’t feel much to you, that you’re just doing for the money. We all have money. For me, my time is more than money at this point in my life.”

James has another “decision” to make in 2014. He can become a free agent again this summer, though still smarting from the circus atmosphere that followed him during his final season with the Cleveland Cavaliers four years ago, James is staying largely silent on what might happen.

“I’m so zoned in on what my task is here this year that it’s hard to think about anything else,” James said. “A guy the other day asked me what I’m going to do for New Year’s, and I haven’t even thought about that.”

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